Doctor Butcher M.D./Zombi Holocaust review
Doctor Butcher M.D. sounds like a slasher thriller about a doctor who butchers his victims in violent fashion while passing himself off as a normal everyday physician, but it’s really more of a zombie/cannibal film in the popular style of Italian films from the late 1970s like The Mountain of the Cannibal God, Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals, and Zombie. And that makes sense when you take into account the original title of the film, Zombi Holocaust, before production edits were made; while Zombi Holocaust has been the main version of the film for years, Severin Films has provided a double-disc Blu-Ray of both Doctor Butcher M.D. and Zombi Holocaust restored in 2K from original film elements, uncut for the first time. While the differences between both of the films are minuscule (see below), the new edition of Doctor Butcher M.D. is the highlight of this package, and this review will focus specifically on that version of the film.
The film follows Lori Ridgeway (Alexandra Delli Colli), Dr. Peter Chandler (Ian McCulloch), Susan Kelly (Sherry Buchanan), and George Happer (Peter O’Neal) as they set out to find an island full of cannibals who worship Kito, a god that Lori seems to know a lot about considering her work in anatomy class. Doctor Butcher M.D. initially takes place in New York City, but after cannibals begin stealing and eating body parts from the local morgues, it becomes apparent that these researchers need to enlist the help of Dr. Obrero (Donald O’Brien) to find why the Kito cannibals seem to be targeting Lori specifically.
Marino Girolami’s film is a bit of a mess, and it certainly shows in the Doctor Butcher M.D. cut of the film, especially because the one-sheet and tagline make little sense when compared to the movie’s content. Despite that, however, Doctor Butcher M.D. is the better-edited film, cutting down a few minutes of footage that add little to the plot; specifically, some walking and driving scenes have been removed for better pacing. There’s also a complete overhaul of Zombi Holocaust‘s soundtrack, adding a synthesizer score that’s a lot more entertaining.
That makes Doctor Butcher M.D. more enjoyable than Zombi Holocaust, and if viewers can overcome some rather lackluster and – to be blunt – horribly muddled plot lines, then there’s actually quite a bit to like about the film itself. Romano Scandariato’s screenplay channels the same themes as better known (and, honestly, better-made) films like Cannibal Holocaust and Cannibal Ferox, with vaguely racist stereotypes of cannibals attacking innocent victims; these moments highlight the excellent practical effects created by Maurizio Trani, utilizing real pig innards combined with clay and latex props. Doctor Butcher M.D. boasts some authentic visuals, including an autopsy scene, head surgery, and a courter stuck in an unfortunate spike trap. The film is a great Italian nasty, and that’s probably the best reason I can think of to recommend it.
The story, however, is quite problematic, and Girolami struggles to put all of the film’s subplots into proper context. Doctor Butcher M.D. never manages to properly explore its Kito cannibals, and later in the film, it pits cannibals against real zombies created by Doctor Butcher in a storyline that seems designed to shoehorn Zombie (or Zombi 2, whatever you prefer to call it) designs into this film – they have the same stylization, at the very least. It’s not a satisfactory plot at all, and it all devolves into silliness the further along Doctor Butcher M.D. gets – with Lori finally becoming cannibal queen and deploying the cannibals to eliminate the zombies and Dr. Obrero/Dr. Butcher. Despite its relatively good special effects throughout, there are also some noticeable errors; for example, a scene where a cannibal dives through a window resulting in his demise on the concrete far below clearly shows a dummy smashing into the ground and losing a limb in the process.
Most who appreciate Italian zombie film will enjoy this release from Severin, though, especially because of the inclusion of both feature films. As I stated previously, I believe Doctor Butcher M.D. is the superior cut, but Zombi Holocaust is also a fine representation, reinstated to its full 96-minute length. Neither will disappoint fans of cannibal gore and carnage; however, there are better films in this style.
Click next for the Blu-Ray review.